By Alex Liao
China’s long-term commitment to nuclear energy currently remains intact despite the recent Japanese reactor crisis. Chinese officials are anticipated to reveal a new 2020 capacity target of about 75 gigawatts, only a slight revision down from earlier estimates of 80-90 gigawatts. With China’s totaled installed nuclear capacity at merely 10.8 gigawatts at the end of 2010, this represents a significant shift in China’s energy policy. Indeed, China’s National Development and Reform Commission identified the nuclear sector as an area for future investment, particularly in nuclear reactor technology. Along with promised advances in uranium isotope separation, nuclear fuel disposal, and radiation protection, China’s focus on nuclear energy appears increasingly palpable.
Corresponding with this energy initiative is China’s search for uranium resources. Because 27 of 110 additional reactors are already under construction, and the country’s 12th Five Year Plan aims to raise nuclear power to 6% of all Chinese electricity, China has actively sought uranium both on a domestic level and on world markets. Hence, domestic mines under the direction of state-owned China National Nuclear Corporation and China Guangdong Nuclear Power Group have been developed across the country. Meanwhile, uranium imports tripled in 2010 to 17,136 tons, comprising resources from Central Asia, Africa, and Australia.
On the domestic front, China’s uranium deposits are largely concentrated in three regions: Southeast China, Northeast China-Inner Mongolia, and Northwest China. As Southeast China has historically been the location of uranium mines, the latter two locations have been seen as the areas which possess great potential in the future. As such, exploration has been concentrated in these regions. Recently, China Guangdong Nuclear Power Group announced the development of two large mines in south China and northwest China, and projects have begun in Inner Mongolia as well. This signals China’s expressed and continued interest in domestic uranium production.
Historically, China has additionally relied on Tibetan uranium, capitalizing on more than 200 deposits that were found prior to 2000. The Tibetan example epitomizes China’s perspective on uranium mining, with frequent claims of ecocide and poor safety conditions. These claims are not unfounded. Environmental degradation through accidental spills, irresponsible radioactive waste management, and deforestation has devastated the landscape. Uranium seeping into groundwater has resulted in a nascent, though largely undocumented, decline in babies surviving birth. International law on this issue, as embodied in far-ranging documents from the Universal Declaration of Human Rights to the Basel Convention Ban Amendment on the transport of hazardous wastes, has not offered sufficient enforcement mechanisms to ensure compliance. Hence, uranium mining interests have thus far trumped any labor and environmental concerns, which could foment future complications in the domestic industry.
Environmental concerns, however, must be placed within the context of China’s shift from coal to nuclear energy. While environmental degradation from uranium mines must be avoided if possible, it still represents the lesser of two evils in that the environmental damage remains largely localized in specific areas. Thus, on the whole, China’s push for uranium can be characterized as a step forward in environmental protection. Environmental considerations, then, do not pose an immediate threat to Chinese uranium mining interests.
Nevertheless, China possesses poor uranium resources, accounting for a paltry 0.7% of the estimated world total. In contrast to its ambitions, uranium output in 2008 was only 769 tons, or 1.8% of global production. While domestic supplies were sufficient for 2010 demand, China expects a tenfold increase in nuclear capacity and in turn, uranium demand. Based on calculations of China’s uranium demand in 2020 from data on planned nuclear reactors, China’s demand would exceed its own resource extent by more than 20%. Even factoring in new discoveries in uranium exploration, demand would far outstrip supply due to the lag between exploration and production.
In a similar vein, although Chinese scientists have recently announced their mastery of nuclear fuel reprocessing technology, the prospect of this approach becoming a substantial aspect of China’s uranium pursuit remains dim. Reprocessing uranium costs significantly greater than purchasing uranium and storing the spent fuel. Moreover, the process, which China would perform domestically, would likely provoke international criticism since it also produces extracted plutonium. With American and European fears over China’s relationships with North Korea, Iran, and Myanmar, reprocessing would only be accomplished on a much smaller scale than would be necessary to meet demand, in order to minimize the risk of nuclear theft or terrorism. Another impediment is the need to build a dangerous breeder reactor – one whose costs would outweigh any benefits. Instead, Matthew Bunn, an expert on the Chinese nuclear program at Harvard University, noted that it would be more prudent for China to wait until cheaper and safer technologies are developed.
From this perspective, while domestically mining uranium provides a preferable alternative to political wrangling of foreign deals, foreign uranium will inevitably constitute an integral role in China’s push for nuclear energy. Complications are prevalent in the countries China purchases uranium from, ranging from corruption to political instability. As these purchases increase in the coming years, tensions will continue due to the volatility in Central Asia and Africa, both regions in which China has been heavily investing.
In line with energy and raw materials purchases in Central Asia, China National Nuclear Corporation and China Guangdong Nuclear Power Corporation currently hold stakes and contracts for uranium mines in Kazakhstan. Likewise, prospecting has begun in neighboring Uzbekistan and state-owned Sinosteel has partnered with an Australian company to begin prospecting in Kyrgyzstan. The underdeveloped energy infrastructure in the region has necessitated additional Chinese investment, furthering ties between the nations. For instance, gas pipelines and hydroelectric power stations have been funded in Kazakhstan, where China accounts for 26% of total foreign investment. This dependence will ensure that China continues to consume Central Asian uranium in the future.
Heavy competition permeates the Central Asian uranium industry, however. Russia and Japan will require significant uranium supplies in the near future, creating strategic resource concerns in the region. Kazakhstan currently resolves this by pursuing a balancing strategy, holding lucrative relationships with Russia, Japan, and China. This creates the opportunity for volatility if domestic instability hampers the Kazakh uranium supply. Already, anti-nuclear sentiments have built up over the Japanese nuclear reactor crises, and poor environmental and safety conditions could threaten long-term productivity. China has sought to settle this dilemma by partnering with state-owned Kazatomprom, though Russia has provided an attractive alternative in its promise to enrich Kazakh uranium and build nuclear reactors. This situation will likely amplify diplomatic tensions in the region, as countries such as Mongolia have already been caught in the Sino-Russian bind. China will need to carefully exercise diplomacy and establish clear economic ties with all regional players, in order to reduce the possibility of escalatory events due to supply shocks.
The same trend repeats itself in Africa. China holds a joint-venture agreement to mine uranium in Zimbabwe, where the potential of 455,000 tons of uranium lies. Similarly, millions have been poured into Niger, the sixth-largest uranium producer in 2008. Competition from Russia and other foreign companies has prompted China to strike deals with French-owned Areva to supply 20,000 tons of uranium over 10 years. Areva has prospected or begun mining uranium in Niger, the Central African Republic, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Tanzania, and Namibia. By working with foreign companies, China has gained valuable support, insight, and knowledge in its drive for uranium.
Corruption and political instability stand out in the African landscape. Chinese development of uranium resources in Africa is frequently accompanied by funds for infrastructure investment projects. Bilateral trade increases at a rate of 44% each year, strengthening the influence of Chinese aid. However, unlike Western aid, few strings are attached to this money, granting autocrats free reign to entrench their power. More importantly, these funds allow African regimes to dilute the effect of sanctions, circumventing Western attempts to promote the human rights apparatus. Hence, Chinese investment abrogates any responsibility for political reform. Instead, entrenched local bitterness over an African regime would tend to increase instability, potentially in the form of backlash.
Regional insecurity may alternatively manifest from economic and labor agitation. Chinese companies have provoked anger in the African workforce due to their imposition of poor working conditions and the lack of adequate labor rights. For instance, several managers have reneged on labor contracts and stifled union activities. As workers lash out through protests, political pressure falls on politicians, as happened in Zambia over coal mine protests. China has continued to ignore these conflicts, which will likely increase in magnitude as uranium transforms into another hotly contested resource. In Niger, ethnic tensions from mining laborers exploded over uranium exploration, providing an instructive wake up call for Chinese managers. If left untreated, this situation will inflame itself across the country as Chinese corporations already reserve high-level positions for its own nationals. Exploited African populations have already shown their ability to hamper uranium mining, making this issue one of critical importance in the coming years.
Of course, political instability and labor tensions could combine to form China’s largest headache. Chinese executives’ continuing refusals to hold discussions with elected officials makes this difficulty more likely. As communication fragments between the people and their government, destabilization remains an ever-present concern. This poses a great challenge for investment since capital would flow towards more stable ventures.
Nevertheless, the perennial issue in Africa remains its imperialist heritage, and cries of neocolonialism run rampant when foreigners exert any measure of influence. Here, China has adopted a more proactive approach. It has argued that its economic cooperation has benefited Africa, by enabling the building of hospitals, schools, and other infrastructural needs. Moreover, it has consistently deflected criticism of human rights violations, asserting a relativist view that human rights are local conceptions, not universal ones. Therefore, this objection will not hinder future Chinese uranium purchases.
Turning away from the continent, a large portion of China’s current imports hails from Australia as well. The regulations and conditions in this country appear more reassuring. Treaty-level safeguards along with national laws ensure environmental protection, as well as the prohibition of uranium retransfers to third countries. Furthermore, military uranium use is proscribed, and trade is contingent upon IAEA inspections. This model of transparency ensures that Australia will remain a stable uranium trading partner for China.
Nonetheless, nuclear weapons hold their place as the preeminent security concern relating to Chinese foreign policy. However, China’s demand for uranium rarely encounters resistance from this concern, for a variety of reasons. First, China’s ability to produce additional weapons also requires plutonium, which remains in extremely low supply. Nor has China recently ramped up nuclear weapons production. Finally, China’s drive for nuclear energy appears legitimate in the international community such that fears of nuclear weapons will not produce concerns in the near future.
Thus, moving forward, China will need to contend with a scarce and unpredictability volatile supply of uranium both within and without its borders. Although it has procured foreign supplies with relatively little controversy, diplomatic tensions in Central Asia and political instability in Africa must be closely monitored to reduce the potentiality of destabilizing events. Future complications will likely come from foreign areas as global demand increases and uranium prices are driven up; hence, Chinese officials must tailor their quest for uranium to more closely suit both African and Central Asian interests.
1 David Stanway, “China to encourage high-tech reactors, uranium exploration,” Reuters, April 26, 2011, http://www.reuters.com/article/2011/04/26/us-china-nuclear-idUSTRE73P1CX20110426.
2 Andrea Hotter, “Chinese Demand Rides to Uranium’s Rescue,” The Wall Street Journal, April 20, 2011, http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052748704658704576274770340535758.html.
3 WISE Uranium Project, “New Uranium Mining Projects – Asia,” May 14, 2011, http://www.wise-uranium.org/upasi.html#CN.
4 Jing Yang, “China Increases Uranium Imports,” The Wall Street Journal, January 21, 2011, http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052748704754304576095361398263834.html.
5 Chen Zhaobo, et al., “Uranium Provinces in China,” Acta Geologica Sinica, Vol. 74, No. 3, September 2000.
6 Wang Yan, “Chinese nuclear power giant’s uranium subsidiary develops new mines,” Xinhua News Agency, May 14, 2011, http://news.xinhuanet.com/english2010/business/2011-05/14/c_13874546.htm.
7 Christina M. Heischmidt, “Comment: China’s Dumping Ground: Genocide Through Nuclear Ecocide in Tibet,” Penn State Environmental Law Review, Vol. 18, No. 2, pp. 213-234, Winter 2010.
8 Qiang Yan, et al., “Nuclear power development in China and uranium demand forecast: Based on analysis of global current situation,” Progress in Nuclear Energy, pp. 4-5, 2010.
9 The Telegraph, “China masters nuclear fuel reprocessing technology,” The Telegraph, January 04, 2011, http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/asia/china/8238032/China-masters-nuclear-fuel-reprocessing-technology.html.
10 Bruce Pannier, “Chinese-Central Asian Relationship Requires Delicate Balancing Act,” Radio Free Europe Radio Liberty, April 04, 2011, http://www.rferl.org/content/ChineseCentral_Asian_Relationship_Requires_Delicate_Balancing_Act/2002215.html.
11 Farkhad Sharip, “China forges uranium pact with Kazakhstan,” Asia Times, March 31, 2011, http://www.atimes.com/atimes/China_Business/MC31Cb01.html.
12 Roman Muzalevsky, “Global Struggle for Kazakh Uranium Resources,” Eurasia Daily Monitor, April 15, 2011, http://theglobalrealm.com/2011/04/18/global-struggle-for-kazakh-uranium-resources/.
13 Paul French, “Mongolian-Chinese uranium deal could set prices soaring,” Nuclear Energy Insider, June 13, 2010, http://analysis.nuclearenergyinsider.com/industry-insight/mongolian-chinese-uranium-deal-could-set-prices-soaring.
14 Zoli Mangena, “Rush for uranium,” Times LIVE, May 07, 2011, http://www.timeslive.co.za/sundaytimes/article1054952.ece/Rush-for-uranium.
15 Reuters, “UPDATE 1-Areva signs three deals with China, eyes EPR sale,” Reuters, November 04, 2010, http://www.reuters.com/article/2010/11/04/areva-idUSLDE6A32HW20101104.
16 WISE Uranium Project, “New Uranium Mining Projects – Africa,” May 06, 2011, http://www.wise-uranium.org/upafr.html.
17 Raymond Hu, “Chinese Investment in Africa: A Dangerous Game,” American Foreign Policy, March 16, 2011, http://afpprinceton.com/2011/03/chinese-investment-in-africa-a-dangerous-game/.
18 Hannah Armstrong, “China mining company causes unrest in Niger,” The Christian Science Monitor, March 29, 2010, http://www.csmonitor.com/World/Africa/2010/0329/China-mining-company-causes-unrest-in-Niger.
19 Australian Government Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, “Australia-China Nuclear Material Transfer Agreement and Nuclear Cooperation Agreement,” Australian Government Department of Foreign Affairs, November 2007, http://www.dfat.gov.au/geo/china/treaties/faq.html#1.
20 Global Security Newswire, “China Not Seeking Nuclear Parity With U.S.: Report,” Nuclear Threat Initiative, May 17, 2011, http://www.globalsecuritynewswire.org/gsn/nw_20110517_1830.php.
By Alex Liao
With recent cyberattacks on defense corporations including Lockheed Martin and Northrup Grumman, cybersecurity has gained its place in the public consciousness. Indeed, President Obama declared that the “cyber threat is one of the most significant economic and national security challenges we face as a nation.” In May, the Obama Administration released a Cybersecurity Legislative Proposal aimed at securing and safeguarding the nation’s network infrastructure in light of growing threats online.
In its proposal, the White House emphasized the primacy of public-private partnerships in developing a cohesive cybersecurity policy. In the status quo, companies often have little incentive to share information about cyberattacks, such as data breaches, which can erode public confidence in the company. The White House seeks to incentivize private cooperation with government in order to work together in protecting the nation’s security systems. In particular, the proposal will unify 47 divergent state notification laws on identity theft, creating a more cogent system for reporting requirements. This mandates that organizations must inform citizens when personal information has been compromised. Moreover, the proposal will attempt to unify criminal penalties for hacking the nation’s critical infrastructure system, and permits the government to share information with organizations that manage critical infrastructure with guarantees for immunity. In this way, the Administration aims to ultimately create a transparent security apparatus that can simultaneously ensure that information which organizations share will not be used to impinge citizens’ civil liberties, while incentivizing the distribution of information in the first place. Hence, the cooperative system melds both the private and public sectors to create a more unified security basis.
On the individual level, the Obama Administration aims to allow the Department of Homeland Security to develop and implement intrusion detection systems, with oversight embedded alongside annual certification to verify the safeguards’ rigor. This authority, which would be vested from an updated Federal Information Security Management Act, would also allow the Department of Homeland Security to hire more cybersecurity professionals to bolster the amount of human capital in the fight. This plank of the proposal would require cooperation with the private sector in the wake of cyberattacks, cooperation which is currently fractured due to the various state laws. The proposal would end the inequity with national and unified cybersecurity legislation.
Currently, federal policy permits the Department of Homeland Security and Department of Defense to defend .gov and .mil network space. However, this scale of coordination does not exist for private networks. There is little regulatory oversight or enforcement mechanisms in place over the private sector as a whole. In cases where government does work with the private sector, information sharing is voluntary. In turn, a quasi-balance has been created, between sharing enough information for cybersecurity collaboration with other companies, and protecting confidential information. The Obama Administration, then, is attempting to increase collaboration while providing assurances for companies’ privacy.
Instead of strict regulation, the Pentagon has worked directly with defense contractors, creating a partnership called the Enduring Security Framework in 2007 with large technology and defense companies to safeguard their computer systems. The Defense Industrial Base effort under the Department of Homeland Security also works with defense companies to protect their intellectual property and coordinate responses to intrusions. Nevertheless, it has been criticized for its poor technological expertise. Several shortfalls include the inability to determine the identity of perpetrators of cyber intrusions and the methods of intrusion. Counter-intrusion strategies have also been revealed to be over a decade old. Hence, while defense companies have been able to detect intrusions and provide short-term fixes, they can do very little in terms of eradicating the problem.
With the creation of the U.S. Cyber Command under the Department of Defense, the nation has gained the ability to develop a cogent cybersecurity doctrine and to train cybersecurity specialists. Its partnership with the Department of Homeland Security, called “Active Defense,” allows it to work with Tier 1 Internet service providers – which are involved in critical infrastructure systems – to stop malware and other privacy concerns from infiltrating networks. Moreover, working with private sector professionals, the federal government has set up the United States Telecommunications Training Institute to train professionals around the world in cybersecurity and in related fields. It has additionally worked with the International Telecommunications Union to develop capacity-building study groups and international risk standards. Likewise, on the international level, the third iteration of Cyber Storm – the Department of Homeland Security’s biennial cybersecurity exercises – contained extensive private sector contributions, including 60 private sector companies. The exercise helped implement the National Cyber Response Plan to coordinate future public-private strategies in the case of cybersecurity emergencies. Hence, private sector participation in cybersecurity efforts has proved to be readily available, with critical infrastructure companies playing integral roles in the Cyber Storm exercises.
Nevertheless, the current level of public-private partnerships leaves much work to be done, as both parties require at least a baseline level of cybersecurity defense above the current haphazard, overlapping security landscape which readily excludes private companies who are unwilling to participate. Of course, the high risk of cybersecurity threats warrants higher levels of public-private cooperation, which may inevitably include regulation and oversight. With increased regulation comes increased risk of outcry or backlash from the business community.
On the whole, private industry has been receptive to the federal government’s cybersecurity initiatives. Intellectual property theft causes multibillion dollar losses for high-profile companies, which could also be hurt from the negative stigma attached to a public announcement of a data breach or cyberattack. Notwithstanding, private companies often withhold information that could prove useful to stifling cyber intrusions or coordinating with other companies. Especially with classified information in the hands of defense companies, the current system of voluntary relationships creates roadblocks to a successful cybersecurity doctrine. Draft legislation in Congress could potentially provide incentives or reimbursements to encourage companies to cooperate with a more stringent regulatory apparatus based on risk-based performance standards developed by the Department of Homeland Security. Moreover, drafting federal security standards collaboratively on a public-private level would override the vagaries of haphazard state laws and regulations.
Members of the Congressional Cybersecurity Caucus, however, were displeased at the lack of an Office of Cyberspace in the White House’s proposal. They argue that more concrete incentives and legal requirements are necessary for companies to consider sharing more personal information. They cite breaches in Sony’s security over the past few months, which require more specific legislation than the one proffered by Obama’s staff. Private sector firms, such as Imperva and SpiderLabs, which called for more specific action from the private-public partnerships, corroborated this sentiment.
Hence, companies have largely avoided criticism of the federal government’s overtures in the cybersecurity realm. Under future regulation, according to Obama’s proposal, industry professionals would be able to set their own standards with government approval and without the threat of any monetary fines. Private organizations would also be immune from lawsuits when sharing information with the federal government. Moreover, there is significant indication that the safeguards will never be developed. The privacy and civil liberties oversight board created to deal with the situation has seated only two of five members, and holds little power over enforcement of standards. Thus, the voluntary, collaborative public-private partnership appeals to private companies, especially security firms who stand to gain demand for their products.
The companies most affected by the Obama Administration’s cybersecurity strategy, however, are critical infrastructure businesses. These include companies that manage systems which manage substantial areas of the nation’s security, economy, and public health. The administration has taken a staunchly protective posture on these companies, placing great emphasis on them in its policy. For instance, it has requested a mandatory minimum three-year prison sentence for hackers who cause significant harm to critical infrastructure systems. While protecting them, however, the enforcement mechanisms for cybersecurity compliance remain lean and favor businesses. For instance, industry audits of these companies under Obama’s proposal will open the door for abuse, allowing companies to simply pay auditors to certify their security systems. Moreover, the national data breach notification law will supplant state laws, which some lawmakers argue are more stringent than Obama’s proposal. Despite these concerns, critical infrastructure businesses contend that the unified cybersecurity strategy will institute new, tougher standards for the entire United States. Representatives of the Business Software Alliance and the Financial Services Roundtable came out strongly in support of new steps forward in national cybersecurity legislation, calling them necessary for the prevention of ever-growing cyberattacks.
This does not mean the federal government intends to ignore non-critical infrastructure. On the contrary, the Department of Commerce recently released recommendations for online companies to buttress cybersecurity protections. It advocated for the establishment of codes of conduct and sought to create government incentives for companies to adopt more robust security systems and improve cybersecurity training. While non-critical infrastructure companies remain outside the sphere of regulation, the Commerce Department intends to seek industry input to establish greater cybersecurity cooperation. For example, it proposed the creation of an online identification system to prevent online fraud. These voluntary proposals have been welcomed by businesses, with public support from the Software and Information Industry Association. Therefore, government action in this arena primarily stands to bolster companies’ cybersecurity efforts without imposing any roadblocks to growth. Indeed, online fraud cost U.S. businesses $37 billion dollars in 2010, creating a significant economic incentive for companies to listen.
Thus, on the whole, the United States Federal Government’s cybersecurity proposals and policies engender an accommodative setting for public-private partnerships to flourish. Support from business groups confirms this notion, as does the lack of public outcry over the administration’s recent overtures on the issue. Hence, little resistance to federal cybersecurity policy should be expected in the near term. As high-profile cyberattacks of Nasdaq, Sony, Google, RSA, Lockheed Martin, and most recently Citigroup emerge, the private industry will naturally seek a more unified system for cybersecurity collaboration in order to reduce risk and limit potential liabilities of data breaches. The federal government, then, must carefully balance the needs of the private sector with the necessity of maintaining a stringent cybersecurity regime which can cogently assess companies’ cybersecurity defenses.
1 The White House, “FACT SHEET: Cybersecurity Legislative Proposal,” Office of the Press Secretary of The White House, May 12, 2011, http://www.whitehouse.gov/the-press-office/2011/05/12/fact-sheet-cybersecurity-legislative-proposal.
2 Grant Gross, “Lawmakers question Obama cybersecurity proposal,” CSO, May 25, 2011, http://www.csoonline.com/article/682966/lawmakers-question-obama-cybersecurity-proposal.
3 Bonney Kapp, “White House lays out cyber-security proposal,” CNN, May 12, 2011, http://whitehouse.blogs.cnn.com/2011/05/12/white-house-lays-out-cyber-security-proposal/.
4 Zeljka Zorz, “Obama administration reveals cybersecurity plan,” Help Net Security, May 16, 2011, http://www.net-security.org/secworld.php?id=11027.
5 Lisa Daniel, “Pentagon, Homeland Security Collaborate on Cybersecurity, American Forces Press Service, May 23, 2011, http://www.defense.gov/news/newsarticle.aspx?id=64045.
6 Greg Masters, “Reaction to White House proposals mixed,” SC Magazine, May 13, 2011, http://www.scmagazineus.com/reactions-to-white-house-proposals-mixed/article/202773/.
7 CSIS Commission on Cybersecurity for the 44th Presidency, “Cybersecurity Two Years Later,” Center for Strategic & International Studies, January 2011, pp. 7-8, http://csis.org/files/publication/110128_Lewis_CybersecurityTwoYearsLater_Web.pdf.
8 Marjorie Morgan, “ISAlliance on Defense Industrial Base Cybersecurity,” The Internet Security Alliance, April 21, 2010, https://www.infosecisland.com/blogview/3753-ISAlliance-on-Defense-Industrial-Base-Cybersecurity.html.
9 U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO), “Cyberspace: United States Faces Challenges in Addressing Global Cybersecurity and Governance,” GAO, July 2010, pp. 22-23, http://www.gao.gov/new.items/d10606.pdf.
10 U.S. Department of Homeland Security, “Cyber Storm: Securing Cyber Space,” U.S. Department of Homeland Security, September 27, 2010, http://www.dhs.gov/files/training/gc_1204738275985.shtm.
11 Robert K. Knake, “Internet Governance in an Age of Cyber Insecurity,” Council on Foreign Relations Press, September 2010, pp.5, http://www.cfr.org/terrorism-and-technology/internet-governance-age-cyber-insecurity/p22832.
12 Sean Lawson, “Richard Clarke Responds to Administration Cybersecurity Proposals,” Forbes, June 03, 2011, http://blogs.forbes.com/seanlawson/2011/06/03/richard-clarke-responds-to-administration-cybersecurity-proposals/.
13 Kim Zetter, “White House Wants Mandatory Three-Year Sentence for Critical-Infrastructure Hackers,” Wired, May 13, 2011, http://www.wired.com/threatlevel/2011/05/white-house-cybersecurity/.
14 Kelly Riddell, “Online Companies Urged by U.S. to Boost Their Cyber Defenses,” Bloomberg, June 08, 2011, http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2011-06-08/online-businesses-urged-by-u-s-to-bolster-their-cyber-defenses.html.
2011 Review of the Russian Economy
By Alex Liao
The Russian economy has traditionally been focused on natural resources rather than innovation and entrepreneurship. During the global recession, oil prices hammered the Russian economy, prompting government stimulus, which similarly protected its financial sector. Nonetheless, the Russian economy has picked up slightly over the couple of years, achieving a modest though disappointing 4-5 percent growth. Although unemployment and currency rates are at pre-recession levels, inflation is rising and the budget deficit is expanding. Labor productivity is less than half of what workers in other OECD states achieve. Hence, the status quo is unsustainable.
Russia must, as a whole, become a more competitive economy. It is currently moving towards more efficient use of its resources, closing its capacity utilization gap by instituting new production processes, decreasing the amount of surplus labor, and having better organization of administrative tasks. A more competitive Russian economy is one that is attractive to foreign direct investment, one that is an attractive exporter of goods and services, and one that is has a productive manufacturing, pro-industrial base. There are several areas where economic reform will lead to a more competitive economy:
First, Russia must reform its administrative framework to be more conducive to business interests and foreign direct investment. Legal institutions must be able to protect intellectual property and drive investment and corporate development. Bureaucracy must be tamed, regulation must not stand in the way of innovation, and judicial transparency must create a secure economic environment where businesses can equitably settle disputes. A thorough review of all regulation, with the intention of making it comparable to international regulations, will send a clear message to foreign markets.
Nevertheless, the financial and banking industry must also be placed on a stable footing. Reforms implemented between 2002 and 2006 to increase transparency in financial reporting, privatization, and credit bureaus must be extended and furthered to cover weaknesses exposed during the global recession. For instance, recent proposals which will tighten capital requirements, or others which will strengthen the Central Bank of Russia’s regulatory powers, will be able to dampen business cycles and bring more stability to the financial framework for the Russian economy. An expansion of the financial industry will also be beneficial, as it will open up new avenues for capital.
Government itself, too, must reduce fiscal deficits to be able to effectually react to fluctuations in the business cycle. It must convey a readiness to keep inflation low, so companies can plan for the future. Corporate taxes must be kept lower to promote competition and increase incentives for productivity. Corporate taxation is relatively high in Russia, making it less competitive than many EU countries. Tariffs and other customs procedures similarly should be streamlined to make the economy more competitive, and make it easier and faster to start a new company. Currently, Russia’s high import tariffs and customs processes have created large barriers against trade. Changing these will reduce the amount of foreign competition while increasing foreign direct investment. Specifically, foreign direct investments would also improve if a 2008 law on protection of strategic sectors was reformed – the law limits foreign investments in the energy sector. Moreover, placing a priority on full accession to the WTO will enable Russia to access new markets and foreign investments.
In the past, corruption has run rampant amongst businesses and the judiciary, fomenting uncertain regulations and creating a rough business environment. Not only that, corruption stifles competition, giving many a reason to stay away from the economy. Corruption creates legal, financial, and reputational risks. Companies do not want to be involved in any allegations about corrupt dealings in Russia. Reform must also be focused on property rights, stable and protected access to land and resources, and intellectual property rights. These must be clearly defined to allow businesses to make clear investment decisions, as problematic administrative barriers will hinder growth. For intellectual property rights, Russia will need to solidly enforce the Trade Related Intellectual Property Rights agreement as per its obligations to the WTO.
Russian businesses that institute accountability standards to reduce fraud and corruption will also increase consumer confidence for economic stability. These may include collective action or zero-tolerance programs, where management takes the lead in anti-corruption measures. There are several private sector initiatives already in place, such as the Russian Initiative for Corporate Ethics and the Partnering Against Corruption Initiative. These programs aim at fostering a best-practice system to stem bribery and corruption between businesses, and should be publicized and further developed so that they become industry standards.
A clear governmental anti-corruption framework must include a sound corruption prosecution mechanism, grounded in legislation and a judiciary that can objectively and independently render decisions that are publicly respected. Moreover, these processes, as well as any other government contracts, must be transparent. Civil service codes should be more standardized to eliminate governmental corruption. Finally, citizens and the media should be able to contribute to these protections. Their voice must be protected, and whistle-blowers must be granted legal protections and incentives. These, combined with private sector efforts, will be seen as a large step towards reducing corruption.
Second, Russia must further develop its infrastructure and technology with innovation in mind. Companies who can access efficient infrastructure can expand with fewer costs to neighboring regions, and integration of infrastructure will increase both the quality and profits for businesses. Energy and transportation infrastructure will improve the density of the job market, while advanced communications systems can ensure that businesses make the soundest decisions in any given environment. To directly improve the job pool, investments must be made in education and healthcare. This will reduce economic inequality, opening up new potential workers and increasing their productivity. Those who have more advanced educations and training can more easily adapt to changing job markets and innovation in a particular sector. The private sector should also contribute to better training of workers, training them from within and providing them the skills to continue to thrive in their sector.
In particular, Russia’s educational system has not seen significant reform in the past few years relative to those of its peers. A brain drain has been observed, where the educated population has elected to leave Russia rather than stay and benefit the economy. Emphasis must be placed on math and science skills, as well as management skills, to shape the next generation of Russian business leaders. A transition to more highly trained management through an expansion of Russian business schools will create a more dynamic economy.
Third, technological innovation must be emphasized. More advanced business practices, as well as access to new products and processes will contribute to a more vibrant private sector. For example, businesses should form clusters to increase efficiency and make it easier for new companies or entrepreneurs to be established. Research and development must be supplemented by research from educational and scientific institutions. An innovation hub, named Skolkovo, has recently been established, and has been compared to the United States’ Silicon Valley. Stimulus measures should be focused on developing these areas. Relationships should be cemented to ensure collaboration between each partner to create homegrown, innovative systems. To this end, market inefficiencies must also be closely monitored. The government must break down monopolies and should write a tougher competition law than the one it wrote in October of 2006, which established a Federal Antimonopoly Service.
Economic reform in these areas must be supplemented with leverage from Russia’s economic strengths. Natural resources will continue to fuel economic growth, though the byproduct – appreciation of the exchange rate – must be tempered to maintain a competitive manufacturing base. Moreover, while natural resources remains important, government investments should focus more on the manufacturing and services industries, which will make the economy more diverse. This, combined with anti-corruption and smart resource management, will allow the Russian economy to continue to grow despite the global financial liquidity difficulties. Russia must use the revenues it can still draw in from natural resources to invest for its future – one with energy efficiency and renewable energies in mind.
Another strength Russia must leverage is its location and broad population. It must use these to attract foreign direct investment, while also entering into agreements with its neighboring countries. Working with the EU, as well as working with CIS states, will prove to be beneficial looking forward. It should also look to establish more Common Economic Zones, like the one it has joined with Kazakhstan, Belarus, and Ukraine. These agreements will enable Russia to lower its tariffs and trade barriers, bringing in more foreign direct investment. Furthermore, Russia’s population ranks among the most educated in the world. It must focus on retaining the population in Russia and avoiding the brain drain. In order to do this, the government must invest in new, attractive jobs in the domestic market.
Thus, in the wake of the global recession, Russia should focus on streamlining its administrative framework to provide incentives for foreign investment, and investing in higher-level management and science education. This will enable the economy to become more competitive and attract innovators. Along the way, Russia should also push for full accession to the WTO, which will provide greater investment opportunities as well as buttress confidence in the Russian economy’s future.
1 World Economic Forum. “Russia Competitiveness Report 2011,” World Economic Forum, 2011.
H.R. 3261: The Wrong Approach
By Alex Liao
The recent legislative deliberations over the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) and Protect Intellectual Property Act (PIPA) have ignited widespread protests and outrage over the role of government in policing Internet content. At one end of the spectrum, entertainment, music, and motion picture corporations are lining up to denounce the flagrant piracy that runs rampant, draining them of valuable revenue during a time where few can afford to lose profit. On the other end, Internet companies and consumers alike have pointed out the freedom of expression inherent in open access to the web. In particular, they take issue with planks of legislation that would remove any semblance of due process from Internet companies if they were found to have inadvertently distributed pirated content. The result would be an inevitable censorship of websites from the likes of Facebook to Reddit and Wikipedia.
However, the discussion over enforcement of procedures such as DNS-blocking appears to be headed in the wrong direction. Indeed, the Social Science Research Council released a report in 2011 where it signaled that “pricing problems,” rather than intellectual property enforcement, was the root cause of the piracy dilemma. “The structure of the licit media economy is almost never discussed. Instead, policy conversations focus on enforcement,” they note. In turn, this artificially constrained paradigm prevents forward progress on the issue, imposing “intellectual, policy, and ultimately social costs.” They cite the “little evidence…that enforcement efforts to date have had any impact whatsoever on the overall supply of pirated goods” and provide evidence that piracy has in fact increased, mostly due to pricing factors and amorphous cultural exigencies.
It is important to point out the significance of this paradigm. If true, then the United States – and a crucial section of its international trade policy – is pragmatically bankrupt. Instead of wasting resources on criminal penalties and punishments, shareholders in the intellectual property rights discussion should focus on the critical market dilemmas posed by low-cost pricing in developing nations and newfound competition in these economies. As the authors of the report summarize, money lost to piracy is not chalked up as a loss for a given nation’s economy; rather, the “consumer surplus” effect implies that the extra money saved will be spent on goods and services that buttress industry investments.
The choice is clear: dealing with imperfect economic realities and business management, or tying and clogging up the court systems with enforcement cases that rarely lead to a decrease in piracy anyways. In the U.S. Supreme Court case MGM Studios, Inc. v. Grokster, Ltd., the high court established new legal principles which actually increased the level of illegal peer-to-peer filesharing. The similarities to SOPA suggest that litigation and criminal punishments fail to deal with the realities of the situation. In response to the Grokster decision, developers simply created open-source software, highlighting the perpetual divide between legislation and the Internet community. SOPA’s broad provisions mirror the same kind of obstinacy in trying to tackle a problem which cannot be solved through the dualism of legal and legislative action. Of course, piracy is an enormous problem; nonetheless, caution must be taken especially when recent precedent has demonstrated the ruse of the proposed legislation. Kicking the can down the road with overly broad legislation will simply open more unresolvable debates about censorship and provide a disincentive for innovators to work without fear of punitive action.
On a broader level, the United States has always stood for democratic values – in stark contrast to China, which currently employs DNS blocking in its so-called Great Firewall. A salient fear is that enacting SOPA and PIPA legislation will dilute America’s voice in the international sphere. As a leading voice in intellectual property law, it must maintain a stream of continuity in its values. Utilizing the same tactics it criticizes, while standing in opposition to products of American entrepreneurship like Google, Twitter, and Facebook will devalue our position both at home and abroad. In an age of delicate sociopolitical values, the Obama Administration must stand in sharper support of its stated endorsement of Internet freedom. Reactionary statements to public outrage are insufficient. The White House should lead with policy and combat the ineffectual legislative standard being raised in Congress.
1 Karaganis, Joe. “Media Piracy in Emerging Economies,” Social Science Research Council, 2011.
2 Giblin, Rebecca. “How litigation only spurred on P2P file sharing,” IT News, 11 November 2011.
School of the Americas
By Alex Liao
Ever since the Monroe Doctrine, the United States has had to carefully watch its relationship with Latin America – and for good reason. The latest issues – drug trafficking, right-wing anti-American leaders, and border violence have drawn attention towards American policy with its Southern neighbors. Yet, one aspect that is frequently overlooked, not least by the media and certainly by ordinary Americans, is the existence of the School of the Americas (SOA).
First, some background: Located in Fort Benning, Georgia, the School of the Americas was established following the Cuban revolution by the U.S. Southern Command. The intent, at the time, was to strengthen counterinsurgency training and to extend those intellectual resources to the continent. Notwithstanding, this “counterinsurgency” curriculum has been bastardized into an amalgam of lessons on how to commit human rights violations. As the Department of Defense and the Pentagon have admitted, the SOA curriculum advocates for torture, executions, and other forms of human rights abuses. Hence, by condoning these atrocious practices, the SOA has perpetuated their existence in South America.
It comes as no surprise, then, that the alumni of SOA include numerous dictators and mass murderers from our neighbors down South. Manuel Noriega, Roberto D’Aubuisson, Hugo Banzer – individuals who comparatively few have spoken of because of their grave human rights violations. Moreover, as the SOA Watch has noted, Colombian paramilitary leaders received training at the School of the Americas. These paramilitary squads have been linked to the deaths of many human rights workers as well as trade unionists. Argentina, Boliva, Costa Rica, Uruguay, and Venezuela, have all sent military personnel to train at the SOA. In other words, the United States is training death squad leaders through military funding.
Robert D’Aubisson planned the assassination of Archbishop Oscar Romero in El Salvador during its civil war. Hugo Banzer and Manuel Noriega have served prison sentences for drug trafficking. Another graduate, General Policarpo Paz Garcia, was a corrupt dictator in Honduras for some time. Of course, these may simply be a coincidence. Yet, the United States cannot condone this violence. At minimum, review of funding towards the SOA must be considered.
Nonetheless, the military-industrial complex threatens to defeat the initiative to end the SOA. To avoid public attention, the Pentagon renamed the SOA to WHINSEC – the Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation. Instead of taking decisive action, the government has simply swept away the issue, foreclosing political dialogue. Even President Obama, who epitomized the human rights ethic in his 2008 campaign, has dropped the ball on this issue. While American drug policy dictates the spending of millions in Mexico, focus has not been given to those who continue to suffer in South America.
WHINSEC’s most ardent supporters cite the benefits for narcotics policing and leadership. However, the current curriculum is not sufficient. Those who attend are only mandated to receive eight hours of instruction in “human rights, the rule of law, due process…leadership development…[and] disaster relief.” The rest of the time, they are free to receive specialized counter-insurgency and infantry training courses. Thus, more insight and public knowledge must be devoted to this issue. Indeed, in 2007, the McGovern/Lewis Amendment narrowly failed to end funding for WHINSEC by six votes. With a budget crisis plaguing the nation, perhaps a review of the $14 million spent on this facility is in order.
A Model for Urban Development
By Alex Liao
Amidst a bustling urban metropolis, millions in São Paolo – Brazil’s largest city – have had little access to education and medical services. This deficit has less to do with the infrastructure available and more with a cycle of poverty that has trapped and marginalized families in the lower classes. Of course, schools can always be reformed, hospitals can always invest in new technology, but the poor often have few incentives to seek such care. Why have a six-year old son at school when he can be working a street job to support the family? Why risk the uncertainties of a medical bureaucracy that, to be fair, has never been completely responsible to the poor?
These questions have often been left unanswered, as Brazilian officials have been more willing to pour money into large social development and infrastructure programs which do very little in terms of substantive improvement. Millions of poorly regulated international funds from the World Bank have done little to significantly change the situation. Rather, they have prolonged the dilemma. As the Argentine debt crisis showed, international institutions founded on neoliberal thought could no longer be trusted. Economic recovery would have to come without the West’s overt influence. Nevertheless, while spending has increased, inequities amongst the Brazilian population have increased. During the 1980s – a period of increased social spending following the end of the military regime and the beginning of democratic governance – the Gini coefficient for Brazil climbed from 0.58 to 0.64. The Gini coefficient measures income inequality, where a value of 0 represents total equality and 1 represents total inequality amongst a population. By comparison, the United States’ Gini coefficient is generally around 0.45. Hence, the traditional Keynesian model of government spending and investment did little to uplift the Brazilian poor from economic and social malaise.
The Brazilian dilemma has far-reaching international implications. Developing countries, of which Brazil, as a member of the BRIC nations, is a leader, will shepherd the next era of innovation that can drive the global economy. If poverty and severe economic inequality continue to plague developing nations, they will never advance from their current positions and gain international recognition and power. Social issues are not isolated to Brazil; rather, China, Russia and much of Europe, as well, face burgeoning questions about their youth’s futures. Meanwhile, countries such as Japan and Canada have seen their population densities tilt towards the elderly. If the most fundamental social problem – poverty – continues to linger, the world may no longer be as interconnected and vibrant as it is today. It is surely time for new solutions, one that does not repeat the mistakes of the past but instead opens new doors and opportunities for the global poor.
The age of failed Brazilian social policies is now sounding its death cry. From 2003 to 2010, Lula’s government expanded the Bolsa Família, a conditional cash-transfer initiative which offers incentives in the form of family grants for a variety of social causes. For instance, families who send their children to school, and keep them in school throughout the year, receive small cash payments. Likewise, receiving regular medical check-ups provides more payments for a family. Instead of throwing money at a problem, the Bolsa Família pragmatically provides small payments to optimize social gains. In Brazil, the small payments are enough to tip the scales and place children in the classroom instead of the factory.
Not only has the Bolsa Família reduced economic inequality and reduced the burden of the poor, it has also paved the way for new poverty-reduction measures. For example, payments could be given to those who start small businesses, or those who start small businesses and hire five other workers. Instead of a loan, which can hamper business growth and create a climate conducive to fear rather than confidence, a conditional cash transfer can spur and provide the seeds for an economic recovery. Expanding further, special tax breaks can be carved out for those who contribute to recycling programs, or for those who take classes in emergency care. The kinds of conditional cash transfers we are seeing today are merely the tip of the iceberg; from here, the economic and social spheres can coalesce to augment progress and break cyclical indigence.
Of course, more information and data are needed to ensure the efficacy of future conditional cash transfer programs. Governments should begin trial programs in various cities, to evaluate where and under what conditions they offer the greatest returns. No two cities are perfectly symmetrical; yet, governments, by looking at data from past programs, can and should engineer specialized programs for each city to meet different needs. In this way, dilemmas ranging from environmental degradation to the uneducated workforce can be diminished.
AFRICOM: The Next Frontier
By Alex Liao
The United States African Command (AFRICOM), the first overseas military command created by the Pentagon since the Cold War ended, recently broadened its strategic relevancy as a result of the Libyan intervention. Its location, ripe within the confines of piracy, Islamic extremism, and strategic oil resources, has forced it to take several divergent strategies. Nonetheless, its efficacy will rely on bilateral and regional relationships with African countries, the African Union, and the European Union.
Aside from Libya, AFRICOM has pursued a more secluded mandate, working with the Africa Partnership station to train African maritime forces, and with the African Union’s five regional Africa Standby Brigades to develop a future peacekeeping apparatus. It has quietly embarked on counterterrorism operations by assuming command over the Combined Joint Task Force–Horn of Africa from Djibouti. While these initiatives are geared towards regional diplomacy rather than military action, they have nonetheless led to substantive developments. In October 2010, a peacekeeping simulation was held in Addis Ababa along with European and African forces, providing a firm framework for future intercontinental cooperation. Furthermore, AFRICOM participated in Exercise Flintlock in 2010, a military exercise geared towards the protection of North and West Africa against extremist and trafficking groups. In the same year, AFRICOM brought together 30 nations in its Africa Endeavour exercise to coordinate regional communications technology. AFRICOM will need to depend on this kind of regional collaboration to safeguard the continent from unexpected crises.
On the other hand, peacekeeping has dominated AFRICOM’s agenda, considering the tumultuous African political landscape. Here, AFRICOM has taken the lead in regional diplomacy. It hosted the first Africa Military Legal Conference in May 2010, assembling legal professionals from nearly 15 countries in Ghana, to buttress the rule of law across the continent. Conversely, the conference was intended to additionally aid military legal advisors in promoting transparency in civil-military relations between AFRICOM and its bilateral counterparts. More pointedly, however, AFRICOM sends mentors and advisors to assist the Africa Contingency Operations Training and Assistance, a program administered by the Department of State that is designed to train African Union peacekeeping forces. This has led to the creation of approximately 20 battalions per year, which AFRICOM will coordinate with alongside its overall security. These programs, which appear more as soft power programs instead of overt military programs, will aid cooperation between AFRICOM and its partners in the region.
Speaking of AFRICOM’s relations with African nations, it would be remiss not to discuss its strategic cooperation with NATO. In 2010, AFRICOM assisted the alliance in Somalia, airlifting 1,700 Ugandan troops into the Somali capital to aid the government there. The NATO Response Force – a 25,000-member contingent called the “world’s first international military strike force” – has also trained in Africa under AFIRCOM’s auspices. Both AFRICOM and NATO combine to assist the African Partnership Stations and African Standby Forces. Hence, AFRICOM’s cooperation with NATO falls within NATO’s New Strategic Concept, specifically by maintaining “mobile and deployable conventional forces” around the globe.
On the whole, AFRICOM’s presence on the continent went largely uncontested in the region since its inception in October of 2008. Operation Odyssey Dawn, which began in March of 2011, has unsurprisingly opened a new set of questions about its future role in relation to African entities. Particularly, the imposition of a no-fly zone over Libya has sparked political backlash with countries which allege that AFRICOM has overstepped the UN Security Council’s resolution authorizing military force. Indeed, the operation has deepened divides in its relations in the region. Before the operation, support for the command remained tepid, as only Liberia had publicly offered to host AFRICOM’s command headquarters. Once the airstrikes began, both the Nigerian Foreign Minister and South African President expressed severe concerns over civilian deaths and firmly rejected the “regime-change doctrine” they saw fomenting. The current intervention, then, has increased suspicions that AFRICOM is pursuing solely American foreign policy rather than that of the African people. This will likely hinder future AFRICOM military efforts in the region unless AFRICOM can mend its regional ties.
Given the turmoil surrounding the Libyan situation, there alternatively appears to be an opening for the Obama Administration to widen AFRICOM’s scope of responsibility. For instance, U.S. naval forces assigned to cover Somali piracy are currently assigned to CENTCOM (Central Command) rather than AFRICOM. A widening role on the continent would give the Administration more flexibility in the future, as it faces challenges from Islamic tensions in North Africa and al-Shabab’s growth in Somalia. Nevertheless, American presence is invariably contingent upon trust with African nations. Obama will need to make clear that AFRICOM’s actions in Libya were exceptionally warranted in that particular situation, in order to dampen fears of American hegemony and rebuild the fragile relations. His recent speech on Middle Eastern foreign policy appears to address this issue, when he stated, “in Libya, we saw the prospect of imminent massacre, we had a mandate for action, and heard the Libyan people’s call for help.”
General Carter F. Ham, the current Combatant Commander of AFRICOM since March of 2011, has raised similarly expectations about AFRICOM’s role in the continent since his arrival. He is widely seen as a cooperative man who will spur enthusiasm within the ranks. Indeed, AFRICOM has assumed a new, dynamic role in the Libyan intervention, working with NATO partners to establish the no-fly zone. He has also shown great care for relations on the continent, allowing his ambassador Anthony Holmes to give a speech signaling the command’s desire to limit an overt American military presence in Africa.
As AFRICOM’s role in Libya has been mostly handed over to NATO’s European allies, Holmes noted that AFRICOM will seek “sustained engagement and stability in Africa.” With only $389 million in funding this year, or less than 5% of U.S. total aid to Africa, its presence will likely be limited in the coming years as a result of the looming deficit crisis in Washington. With half of its 2,273 personnel being civilians, AFRICOM will likely depend on partnerships with the African Union, the European Union, and NATO in the near future. As no new US military troops were deployed with AFRICOM at its founding, and as it maintains no new military bases on the continent, it must constructively engage with regional and bilateral partners in the future.
Indeed, AFRICOM’s structure is intrinsically suited for aid and stability rather than an explicit militarization of relations. Its structure creates greater coordination with other American agencies, such as USAID and the State Department. The position of Directorate of Civil-Military Affairs, in particular, will allow AFRICOM to continue to liaison with the African Union and its African Standby Forces in the future if and when tensions rise. Hence, General Ham has positioned AFRICOM to be more dynamic and receptive of regional interests while aligning them with American foreign policy.
With increasing Chinese commercial advances in the energy industry, AFRICOM must also confront a changing African landscape. Fortunately, Chinese companies generally do not interfere with African politics and do not posit regime change. With its bevy of civilian operations, AFRICOM thus presents a greater soft power image that can offset China’s rapidly growing interest in Africa and inversely, African businessmen’s interest in partnering with Chinese companies. China’s rise, inimical to U.S. business and strategic interests, presents a unique challenge. While China aims to prop up the status quo, it remains in the United States’ national interest to strengthen and develop weak states which form the hotbed of insurgencies, humanitarian crises, and criminal organizations. Its relationships with the African Union will help foster increased stability to counter China’s support. In turn, AFRICOM will deny terrorist and criminal organizations the lax governance which allows them to grow roots in an area. With al-Qaeda also expressing interest in attacking the African energy infrastructure, AFRICOM’s protection will clearly aid U.S. business interests in the future.
Looking forward, AFRICOM will additionally continue to ensure the stability of African oil exports, which are expected to account for more than 25% of all US oil imports by 2015. This falls in line with its “capacity-building” agenda, in which it sends military specialists to advise and support various peacekeeping, lawmaking, and security-related enterprises of different African nations. In this way, AFRICOM can protect both regional stability and American foreign policy interests.
Thus, transitioning from the Libyan intervention places AFRICOM in a position of strength. Not only can it rely upon its newfound military clout, but its new leadership under General Ham will also enable it to take on a more assertive role on the continent. Of course, AFRICOM cannot exist based on unilateral actions, and must strengthen bilateral and regional relationships with individual countries, the African Union, the European Union, and NATO. It is in this way that AFRICOM can confront the diverse challenges it faces, from terrorism and extremism to piracy and energy security.
1 Jonathan Stevenson, “AFRICOM’s Libyan Expedition: How War Will Change the Command’s Role on the Continent,” Foreign Affairs, May 9th, 2011, http://www.foreignaffairs.com/articles/67844/jonathan-stevenson/africoms-libyan-expedition.
2 Robert Moeller, “The Truth About Africom,” Foreign Policy, July 21, 2010, http://www.foreignpolicy.com/articles/2010/07/21/the_truth_about_africom?page=0,3.
3 Nicole Dalrymple, “AFRICOM Hosts First Africa Military Legal Conference, Nearly 15 African Nations Participating, U.S. AFRICOM Public Affairs, May 19, 2010, http://www.ikd-m.africom.mil/getArticleFresh.asp?art=4438&lang=0.
4 U.S. AFRICOM Public Affairs, “FACT SHEET: Africa Contingency Operations Training and Assistance (ACOTA),” U.S. AFRICOM, June 15, 2008, efforts. http://www.africom.mil/getArticle.asp?art=1886.
5 Rick Rozoff, “Battleground for NATO’s 21st Century Strategic Concept,” The Ghanaian Journal, May 24, 2011, http://www.theghanaianjournal.com/2011/05/24/battleground-for-natos-21st-century-strategic-concept/.
6 John CK Daly, “Libya: AFRICOM’s Combat Christening,” ISN Insights (ETH Zurich), March 28, 2011, http://www.isn.ethz.ch/isn/Current-Affairs/ISN-Insights/Detail?lng=en&id=127973&contextid734=127973&contextid735=127972&tabid=127972.
7 Barack Obama, “President Obama’s Middle East speech (full text),” CBS News, May 19, 2011, http://www.cbsnews.com/8301-503544_162-20064356-503544.html.
8 Eric Schmitt, “U.S. Africa Command Seen Taking Key Role,” The New York Times, March 21, 2011, http://www.nytimes.com/2011/03/22/world/africa/22command.html.
9 Kevin Howe, “U.S. shows interest in Africa: Office got off to rocky start, ambassador says,” The Herald, June 15, 2011, http://www.montereyherald.com/local/ci_18276695?nclick_check=1.
10 Gerrie Swart, “The Role of AFRICOM: Observer, Enforcer, or Facilitator of Peace?” Conflict Trends: Peacekeeping in Africa, Issue 4, pp. 10-11, 2007.
11 Emile Schepers, “AFRICOM and the Libya War: Countering Chinese Influence in Africa,” Centre for 12 Research on Globalization, June 20, 2011, http://www.globalresearch.ca/index.php?context=va&aid=24018.
13 Carmel Davis, “AFRICOM’s Relationship to Oil, Terrorism, and China,” Orbis, Vol. 53, No. 1, January 2009 pp. 122-136.
16 Kenneth Mpyisi, “US Involvement in African Peacekeeping,” Conflict Trends: Peacekeeping in Africa, Issue 4, pp. 35-36, 2007.
By: Alex Liao
With at least 2,000 estimated Syrian deaths resulting from the uprising against President Assad, international pressures have been mounting to try to isolate the regime and force an end to violence in Hama and in neighboring villages. Turkey, one of Syria’s neighbors and a close trade and political partner, has been leveraging its ties to pressure Syria. The two countries have a lengthy history, with brinkmanship almost resulting in a war over Kurdish militants in Syria during the late 1990s. Since then, Prime Minister Erdogan has worked to build strong ties between the nations to buttress his “zero problems with neighbors” foreign policy.
While the West has orchestrated strong international calls for Syria to halt its shelling of villages near the Turkish border, alongside U.S. sanctions against the Commercial Bank of Syria and telecommunications company Syriatel, Turkey has separated itself from these calls to strike a “more optimistic” tone. In particular, Turkey has emphasized the fact that Syrian tanks have started exiting Hama to point out that their engagement, founded upon sturdy economic and diplomatic relations, has been effective. Erdogan noted that Turkey hoped to see a reform process take place within fifteen days.
Nonetheless, while striking this broad optimistic tone about its engagement efforts, Turkey has previously strongly warned Syria, with Turkish newspapers reporting that Ankara may soon end its ties with Syria to cause a “Saddam-like” isolation. It is also important to note that Turkey has, for now, viewed Syria’s actions as an internal issue due to the number of refugees fleeing across the border. Its borders and close ties to Syria have given it leverage, though Erdogan stated that “our patience is running thin,” signaling Turkey’s potential acquiescence to international measures such as sanctions. However, current Turkish policy assumes that the international measures will not escalate without Ankara’s cooperation. Hence, Turkey is currently still holding onto fragile ties with Syria, hoping that engagement will result in a democratic transition under Assad.
Thus, the Turkish Foreign Minister Davutoglu’s meeting with President Assad marked Turkey’s final call to Syria to determine Turkey’s foreign policy going forward. Although Syria refused to make concessions beforehand, and continued storming towns near the Turkish border, Davutoglu reported that “concrete steps” were discussed to avoid further confrontations between security forces and civilians and that reform is expected in the coming weeks. While Turkey waits to see the final result of its engagement efforts and whether the reform Assad promises will arrive, Syrian state-run news reported that Syria would continue to crack down on what it believes are “terrorist groups.” Therefore, renewed violence across the border is expected, and the consensus is that the Syrian regime rebuffed Davutoglu during the meeting. With more violence, reform efforts will likely not be taken seriously.
It is likely, however, that Turkey will pursue alternative forms of engagement before trying to join international isolation efforts. The violence has principally caused an exodus of Syrians across the Turkish border. Turkey worries that the PKK, or Kurdistan Workers Party, which has launched terrorist attacks inside Turkey, could exploit the border crossing to send fighters into Turkey. Thus, Turkey’s primary goal is to contain the situation within Syria to stop the violence from overflowing inside its borders. It has mentioned the possibility of a buffer zone in Syria, which would involve military forces but avoid a direct military confrontation. The buffer zone would help manage refugees by providing humanitarian aid, and Turkey tried this option before in Iraq when Saddam persecuted Iraqi Kurds. With escalating tensions across the border, the buffer zone may then be the best option to avoid violence spreading into Turkey and to uphold the AKP’s “zero problems with neighbors” foreign policy.
On a regional level, the tensions have cracked Turkey’s foreign policy. Iran and Syria have long supported each other with alliances against Israel and support for Hizballah and Hamas. In turn, Turkey and Iran have formed closer trade ties, and Turkey has even considered military cooperation against the PKK. Abandoning the Assad regime, then, would cause Turkey to be seen as an “ally of the West” by Iran since both the U.S. and Saudi Arabia have openly denounced Syria. Turkey, in an effort to avoid this, has not openly abandoned Assad and will perhaps continue to wait for reforms instead of risking another close trade partner. Indeed, Turkish officials have noted that Iran has stopped criticizing Turkey’s anti-Syrian positions since the Davutoglu meeting. Most indications are that Turkish-Iranian relations will survive, as even Iran’s Ayatollah Ali Khamenei will choose to privately abandon Syria if it feels that Assad’s regime has lost all leverage. Their shared interests, particularly their trade ties and cooperation against Kurdish separatists, will form the basis for their future cooperation and relations.
On the other end, the United States is likewise concerned about Turkey’s relations with Iran. It has warned Turkish officials and businesses about the loss of access to American markets if economic relations with Iran continue to build up. Both the United States and the EU have been pressuring Turkey to take tougher stances on Iran, and will likely do so even more as Iran has been providing economic support to Syria. However, Turkey is expected to ignore these pressures and pave its own foreign policy for two reasons. First, on an ideological level, the ruling AKP party in Ankara has a strong religiously conservative bloc which will continue to push for ties with Iran and Muslim countries in general. Second, on a pragmatic level, Turkey depends on Iran for a third of its natural gas imports, and bilateral trade has helped support the economy during the recession. Turkish businesses that operate in Iran also are among the top supporters of the AKP. Thus, Erdogan is likely to yield to these pressures and continue to ignore Western pressures unless violence in Syria seriously threatens to overflow and threaten Turkey’s regional interests. In this scenario, Western governments would be expected to directly block Iranian ties with Turkey, especially in the financial sector as it has done with Iran’s relations with the UAE and India, forcing Turkey to join or lead international, Western-backed efforts.
Most recently, reports from Syria indicate an expanding level of repression, with tanks and gunmen moving on Latakia and Qusair. This is seen as a response to the crowds that have formed in anger against the regime in several cities. With conflict escalating and hopes of engagement thinning out, Turkey may even consider leading an international intervention effort. Of course, this would most likely take place after sanctions efforts and a period of intense international pressure led or joined by Turkey. Nevertheless, Turkish government officials have been sure to emphasize that they have not ruled out an international intervention. Specifically, the Turkish army has additionally summoned hundreds of officers for reserve duty near the Syrian border to prepare for refugees and possible NATO strikes in the future. Therefore, this option is a distinct reality, though an unlikely one at this point in time.
In this way, Turkey remains committed to its foreign policy – one that is neither staunchly Western or anti-Western. It will continue pursuing engagement to maintain its trade ties in the region, and only when all engagement efforts and alternatives are exhausted will it choose to lead international isolation initiatives. If these efforts lead to intensified violence which Ankara believes may spillover, it may then plan an international intervention with NATO. Turkey realizes that isolating the Assad regime may well escalate tensions with Syria and Iran, without producing substantive reforms or reduction in violence. Although Turkey is holding back from leading international efforts against Syria, it is doing so to uphold peace in the region. If its engagement proves to be successful, then the West will have less to worry and Turkey will retain its economic and political prowess. If not, then regional turmoil is likely as Turkey works to balance between its economic and security interests at home and broader political interests in the West.
1 Zirulnick, Ariel, “Turkey risks Syria’s friendship in last-ditch effort to end violence,” The Christian Science Monitor, August 9, 2011, http://www.csmonitor.com/World/terrorism-security/2011/0809/Turkey-risks-Syria-s-friendship-in-last-ditch-effort-to-end-violence.
2 Malas, Nour and Marc Champion, “Turkey Sees Progress in Syria, as U.S. Adds Sanctions,” The Wall Street Journal, August 10, 2011, http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424053111904823804576500213625757614.html.
3 EurActiv.com, “Turkey delivers ‘final warning’ to Syria,” EurActiv.com, August 9, 2011, http://www.euractiv.com/en/global-europe/turkey-delivers-final-warning-syria-news-506931.
4 Kennedy, Elizabeth A., “International pressure on Syria grows,” The Associated Press, August 09, 2011, http://www.google.com/hostednews/ap/article/ALeqM5httabeCciPzthQniT8O55xMX-UfQ?docId=63059c1348e3466a8da0f5877d18217f.
5 al-Hatem, Fadwa, “Turkey’s complex relationship with its neighbour Syria,” The Guardian, August 10, 2011, http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2011/aug/10/turkey-syria-complex-relationship.
6 Cagaptay, Soner, “A Turkish Buffer Zone Inside Syria?” Hurriyet Daily News, July 3, 2011, http://www.hurriyetdailynews.com/n.php?n=a-turkish-buffer-zone-inside-syria-2011-07-03.
7 Radio Free Europe Radio Liberty, “Syria Clouds Turkey’s Sunny Parade With Iran,” Radio Free Europe Radio Liberty, August 10, 2011, http://www.rferl.org/content/syria_clouds_turkeys_sunny_parade_with_/24293032.html.
8 World Tribune, “Turkey weighs boosting Iran’s assault on Kurds in Iraq,” World Tribune, August 10, 2011, http://www.worldtribune.com/worldtribune/WTARC/2011/me_turkey1004_08_10.asp.
9 Radio Free Europe Radio Liberty, “Syria Clouds Turkey’s Sunny Parade With Iran,” Radio Free Europe Radio Liberty, August 10, 2011, http://www.rferl.org/content/syria_clouds_turkeys_sunny_parade_with_/24293032.html.
10 Habibi, Nader, “Iran-Turkey economic ties and US sanctions,” Sunday’s Zaman, August 14, 2011, http://www.todayszaman.com/news-253652-iran-turkey-economic-ties-and-us-sanctions.html.
11 Neild, Barry, “Assad orders tanks into rebel towns as Syria’s brutal crackdown intensifies,” The Guardian, August 13, 2011, http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2011/aug/13/assad-tanks-rebel-towns-syrian.
12 United Press International, “Turkey may intervene in Syria,” United Press International, August 13, 2011, http://www.upi.com/Top_News/World-News/2011/08/13/Turkey-may-intervene-in-Syria/UPI-31261313274605/?spt=hs&or=tn.
13 Bar’el, Zvi, “Syria uprising may lead to regional war,” Haaretz.com, August 12, 2011, http://www.haaretz.com/news/middle-east/zvi-bar-el-syria-uprising-may-lead-to-regional-war-1.378391.